GREAT FALLS -- Mark Samson has been doing this a long time.
"I was telling the kids, this is my 37th August of coaching,” he laughed. “The only change is you become a little bit more mellow about some of some things.”
But what doesn’t mellow over time is his enthusiasm and optimism for his teams. And as the longtime Montana coaching staple enters his fourth season in charge of Great Falls High, he’s as effusive as ever.
“Last year I thought there was a lot of things that this program made strides in,” Samson said. “You can see how we’ve gotten a little bit better in every year, and this year strength-wise we’re better than we’ve ever been at GFH.”
The 2019 Bison will look a little different than the team that made the Class AA playoffs last year for the first time since 2008. Gone are the stars like Blake Thelen, Kyle Torgerson and Luke Banderob that took the program to new heights. But in their place are experienced pieces on both sides of the ball.
Like many teams, Samson will utilize several two-way players.
“There’s a lot of people on our team that don’t want to come off the field,” said Levi Torgerson, who will play receiver and cornerback. “And when they’re on the field they’re playmakers, they just make those plays.”
Andrew Almos steps in as the new Bison quarterback. He started at safety last year before blowing out his knee in Week 4. After nine months of recovery, he was cleared a week before fall camp and is itching to get back on the field.
“I got a pretty good arm, I throw pretty far, pretty hard, accurate,” Almos said. “I think I’ll be pretty good running with the ball, because it’s going to take a couple guys to bring me down.”
Samson doesn’t know where the Bison will stack up in the AA, but he does know that no team will work harder week in and week out.
“This group of kids, I keep telling people I don’t know how good we’re going to be but they’ve worked their tails off,” Samson said. “You look at Bozeman and (Billings) West and a couple of those other schools and they’ve got some Division I talent. We don’t, but what we have is just a bunch of kids that like to play and are not afraid to get after people. We’ll see what happens.”
Great Falls High opens the season at home against Missoula Sentinel on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.